Common Word, Common Lord

In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful, Beautiful, and Beloved Lord

On June 7, 2009, my eldest daughter lost her battle with lymphoma. Today is her 17th birthday.


My Lord my God, my Savior and Grace,
The One Who has the Most Beautiful Face

‘Twas seventeen years since You graced my life
And gave a daughter to a husband and wife

And we watched her grow under Your Love and Grace
Countless times would she put a smile on face

Yet, by Your Will, our time with her was cut short
And terrible grief has gripped this man and consort

But I’ve tried to be strong for all those around
To help soften blow, shield fall to the ground

But it’s hard, my Lord, to be strong all the time
And so, my Lord, be my Strength and Rock Divine

I try to hide my pain and grief
So I can be strong and give relief

I struggle to shield my face from tears
No grief do I carry, it may seem to peers

But it’s hard, my Lord, to be strong all the time
And so, my Lord, be my Strength and Rock Divine

My heart, my Lord, it always aches in distress
For, my Lord, I can no longer have her caress

But crumble I cannot, for I must live on
And be a Rock; for on me, they depend upon

But it’s hard, my Lord, to be strong all the time
And so, my Lord, be my Strength and Rock Divine

Sometimes, my Lord, I want in horror to scream
And let loose such tears that face will gleam

But I can’t, my Lord, for it will not be right
To take away from those around a day so bright

But it’s hard, my Lord, to be strong all the time
And so, my Lord, be my Strength and Rock Divine

I’m trying my best to be as strong as I can
But it’s hard, O Lord, with a loss so grand

Forgive this soul if this complaint is wrong
But it’s hard, sometimes, to be ever so strong

And so, my Lord, be my Strength and Rock Divine
And let Your Love and Grace be forever mine.

In the Name of God: the Infinitely Compassionate and Merciful Beloved Lord

As is the case every year, Christmas Day is just another calendar day for me. In fact, I will be working in the hospital on Christmas Day this year, one of 11 shifts I am scheduled to work until the end of the year. Yet, that does not mean that Jesus is not in my heart. Christ, in fact, is a major part of Islamic belief. There are dozens of verses in the Quran that speak about Jesus, including his birth (3:45-49), his miracles (5:110), the Last Supper (5:113-115), among many others. Chapter 19 of the Quran is named “Mary,” after his mother, and many verses speak very highly of Jesus Christ.

Jesus, as the Quran says, “shall be of the righteous” (3:46). “Peace be upon me the day I was born,” says Jesus in the Quran, “and [will be upon me] on the day of my death, and on the day when I shall be raised to life [again]!” (19:33). The Quran also calls upon its readers to remember “she who guarded her chastity, whereupon We breathed into her of Our spirit and caused her, together with her son, to become a symbol [of Our grace] unto all people” (21:91), referring to Mary and Jesus. Many will be surprised to know that Jesus Christ is mentioned by name in the Qur’an many more times than the Prophet Muhammad himself, peace and blessings be upon them both.

Still, despite all this love and devotion for Jesus Christ, Muslims – including this one – do not typically celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. You know, it is funny: when I say “Merry Christmas” to someone, I usually get widened eyes of surprise. He or she does not expect a Muslim to say something like that to them. Likewise, so many people – who know I am Muslim – will say, “Happy Holidays” to me – thinking that I would get offended if they said to me, “Merry Christmas.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

When I say, “Merry Christmas” to my Christian friends and colleagues, I mean it sincerely: I pray that they have a very happy time on Christmas, that special day when they get together with friends and family to celebrate the birth of Christ. And when it is said to me, it is also a very nice wish: that I have a happy time on Christmas Day. There is nothing over which to be offended. Nothing whatsoever.

The birth of Christ was a very momentous occasion in the religious history of the world, and it makes me, as a Muslim, just as happy as my Christian brothers and sisters. And so, during this Christmas season, I say to one and all: A Very Merry Christmas. From the bottom of my heart, I send a message of peace, love, brotherhood, and sisterhood to all my Christian sisters and brothers. May the grace of our Lord, Hallowed be His Name, be with us all, and may He bring all of us – Christian and Muslim – closer together as common worshippers of the Lord our God and lovers of Jesus Christ and his mother.

Lord our God hear this prayer, which I make in Your Most Holy Name. Amen.

In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

This time of year is always special: it is a time when we all pause and spend time with our friends and families and give thanks to the Lord for His bounty and blessings. Although there are some in the Muslim fold that object to “celebrating” this holiday as a “bid’ah” or religious innovation, I reject this contention. As eloquently elucidated by Dr. Umar Faruq Abd Allah, Islam accepts the cultural traditions of a people as long as it is in accord with Islamic principles.

There are few things that are more in harmony with Islamic principles than giving thanks to the Lord our God.

The Qur’an is full of references of the importance of being thankful to God for all His bounties, and this passage is but one example:

Have you ever considered the water which you drink? Is it you who cause it to come down from the clouds – or are We the cause of its descent? [It comes down sweet – but] were it Our will, We could make it burningly salty and bitter: why, then, do you not give thanks [unto Us]? (56:68-70).

In fact, the very name “kafir” in the Qur’an, which most think of as “infidel,” in fact means “ungrateful.” Thus, giving thanks to God is one of the most important duties upon a Muslim in his and her life.

Yet, apart from this special day when we all reflect over the things for which we are thankful, it is a potent reminder that our job is not done when Black Friday approaches. Thanking God must be a part of our daily lives, not just on Thanksgiving. And it is much more than simply saying, “Thanks, Lord!” a thousand times a day, which would not be wrong in and of itself.

Still, gratitude is best manifested in action, not words. If we are thankful for the bounties which we are given, then we must use those bounties to help others who may be deprived of those bounties. Every year, in my hometown Chicago, Muslim activists have been donating Thanksgiving turkeys since 2001. This year, by the grace of God, well over 1,000 turkeys were donated to families in need on the South Side of Chicago. This is what gratitude is all about.

Those who have been given knowledge must spread and share this knowledge with those around them, in gratitude to God for such a tremendous gift. Those who have been given wealth must share that wealth in charity, in gratitude to God for such a wonderful gift. Whatever gift we have been given, in addition to physically thanking God for it, we must also use that gift to help those of God’s children who are in need.

That is what gratitude is all about. That is what Thanksgiving should inspire us to do every single day in our lives.

And, yet, we must also never forget to physically say “Thank You”: first and foremost to God, for He is most deserving of our thanks. But, as importantly, to others as well. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) once said:

He who does not thank people, does not thank God. (Bukhari, Muslim)

I understand this to mean that, if one does not thank others for their contributions and efforts and help, then he is not truly grateful to God. And being grateful to God is a must.

And so, we must continually say “Thank You”: to our spouses for all their hard work and love and grace; to our co-workers for their work and fellowship; to our parents for all their sacrifice for our sake; to our friends and neighbors for their being in our lives. It is the right thing to do, and it is the way to be truly grateful.

This morning, while I was getting coffee before work, I saw another customer in US Army fatigues with his daughter, getting coffee and breakfast. As I left, I stopped and said, “Thank you for your service. Happy Thanksgiving.” He expressed his appreciation and shook my hand. I may not always agree with the policies of those who send him around the world, but I am grateful for his service on my behalf nonetheless.

It felt great to do so, and I am grateful that I could muster the courage to thank him. But, that’s the beauty of gratitude: it makes one feel great, and it inspires her to continue being grateful, in both word and deed. That is what gratitude is all about. That is what our Beloved Lord wants of us.

A very Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving to you all! Amen.


In the Name of God: the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful Precious Beloved Lord

I was in college, and my friend and I were sitting in the prayer room at Marquette University talking when a sister came into the room to offer her prayers. Once she was done, my friend had made a suggestion to her that she should wear the hijab (she took it off as soon as she was done with the prayer).

Angrily speaking to him – but loud enough so that she could hear – I said that she knows she has to, and that it was bad that she didn’t. The sister, for her part, didn’t say anything and left the room after saying “Khuda Hafiz,” or “May God protect you.” After she left, my friend rebuked me for being so harsh, and I told him that I didn’t care. In my mind, I was being “harsh for God.”

There are few things for which I have more remorse and regret than how I acted that day, and I pray to the Lord that He forgives my stupidity.

How could it be that I neglected to follow the Qur’an warning against the very way I had acted that day? The Qur’an says:

Is it not time that the hearts of all who have attained to faith should feel humble at the remembrance of God and of the truth that has been bestowed [on them] from on high?…” (57:16)

What was wrong with me that I treated a sister in faith with such poor regard? Who was I to judge her choice about the hijab? What in God’s most Holy Name was I thinking?

I wasn’t thinking…in fact, I was being stupid. Even though I had read that verse of the Qur’an so many times, I had no idea what it meant, and I completely neglected its wisdom.

The truth is, with increasing faith, we should be even more humble and compassionate, not less. The Qur’an asks each believer to reflect over himself and herself; to check the condition of their heart and faith. Are they more humble with the remembrance of God? Or are they smug, arrogant, and self-righteous? If we are the latter, then we must check the condition of our faith, for true righteousness has no room for self-righteousness.

If there is any person on earth that should have been self-righteous, it was the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). He saw the Archangel Gabriel in his true form; he received direct revelation from God in an instant; he even ascended to Heaven and talked to the Lord directly!

Yet, the Prophet was never – ever – arrogant or self-righteous. He never made his companions and comtemporaries feel inferior, even though – in all reality – they were inferior to him in faith.

If the Prophet was never arrogant or self-righteous, then who the hell are we to be so? Who the hell was I to be so rough and harsh with that sister so many years ago?

It is akin to having a patient come to me with lung disease – from years of smoking – and I look down on her with disdain and disgust. If I, or any other doctor, ever did that, we would not be doctors for very long. On the contrary, I must have compassion and caring for anyone who comes into my office (or now, ICU) seeking medical care. They have put their trust in me to help them feel better, and – by the grace of God – I must do my best to treat them properly and show them compassion and empathy.

The exact same goes for all who come into the houses of God seeking spiritual solace.

They may not be Angels; they may have done many things wrong in their lives. But, they must never be met with arrogance or self-righteousness. They must be greeted with love, mercy, and brotherhood/sisterhood. The House of God is one of peace and love, and there is no place there for smugness and arrogance. Would that the many “believers” who fill its walls take heed of the Quran’s warning.

I so wish that I could meet that sister once again and apologize to her. If that sister happens to be reading this: please, sister, accept my sincerest apology for the way I acted. May the Lord bless you with all that is good in this life and the next, Amen.

And Lord, please, protect this soul from ever becoming arrogant and self-righteous again. Please increase me in humility and compassion. And, most important of all: accept me into Your fold and shower me with Your grace, Your blessing, and Your mercy. For, without those things; without You, O Lord,  I am truly nothing.

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In the Name of God, the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

The perception of the Qur’an – and by extension all of Islam – is that it is a book of violence and intolerance. Indeed, there is no shortage of verses in the Qur’an that are tough in nature and talk about war and violence. Yet, the book consists of over 6,000 verses; the ones that are tough are a very small minority. Still, despite this fact, there are a number of Muslim preachers that like to stress on God’s Might and punishment. In fact, many times, that is the only image of God that they conjure in the minds of the faithful. And for sure, the many detractors of Islam stress that this is the only image of God that is valid in Islam at all.

Yes, the Qur’an does contain many verses with the threat of punishment for this wrong or that. Yet, that is neither the essence of the book nor the essence of God in Islam. And I came across a truly amazing verse that confirmed for me what I already knew about the Precious Beloved Lord our God:

Why would God cause you to suffer [for your past sins] if you are grateful and attain to belief? Verily God is Appreciative and All-Knowing (4:147)

It can also be translated as:

What can God gain by your punishment if you are grateful and attain to belief…

Leaving aside the fact that God in the Qur’an – in more than one place – is described as being “Appreciative” (that will be for another post), this verse left me truly speechless.

What would God gain by your punishment?

When one reads verses of Scripture – be they from the Qur’an or the Bible – that describe the torment of what is called “Hell,” it is by necessity tough and difficult. If one only stresses the verses that describe God as “stern in punishment” – which He, of course, is – and one only quotes passages of Scripture that describe the torment of “Hell,” it can be made to seem that God is only waiting for us to make a mistake so He can punish us severely.

Yet nothing can be farther from the truth, and the verse confirms this.

Why would God cause you to suffer [for your past sins] if you are grateful and attain to belief?

Notice how gratitude comes before belief in God which, as some of the classical commentators note, is not accidental. When one reflects over the great boon and blessing that is life itself; free will and human intellect; the great bounty of the earth and its riches, one comes to the conclusion that there must be a Giver of all this bounty. And thus, out of gratitude to the Giver, one comes to believe in Him. And when one believes in Him, again out of gratitude, one follows His way.

Of course, this is all from the perspective of faith. The natural corollary to this is: what if one does not believe? What happens to the one who does not believe in God? Does God wish for them to suffer? Does God save His torment for those people?

To this, I have no answer. I do not know the fate of those who profess no belief in God at all. Why, I do not know my own fate! It is not my place to condemn them to God’s punishment. My charge – as a believer and servant of God – to be good to all of His children, even if those children choose not to believe in Him. In the end, God will judge us all.

Yet, for those who do believe in God, this verse gives us tremendous hope and solace. God is not waiting for us to sin so that He can strike us down with His punishment. As long as we are grateful to the Lord for His bounty and – because of this gratitude – do the best we can to live our lives in accordance with His will, what purpose would God have in punishing us? The answer lies in the question itself: there is no purpose at all.

And that is a very comforting thought indeed.


In the Name of the Beautiful, Compassionate Beloved Lord our God

The day began just like all other days on that day in August many years ago. I was on the Pulmonary consult service in the hospital, and on the agenda was a bronchoscopy on a patient in the coronary care unit. “Cool,” I thought, because I absolutely love performing bronchoscopies.

Bronchoscopy, for those not in the medical field, is a procedure in which a flexible tube with a light and camera on the end is placed through the nose and into the lung. I can actually see the airways on a video monitor, and we can do various procedures, such as biopsies. I had to perform a biopsy of the patient’s lung tissues that morning.

I paid absolutely no attention that it was Friday 13th.

The “bronch,” as we pulmonologists like to call it, started out as smooth as all others I have done in the past. I talked to the patient beforehand; I gave the patient numbing medication in his nose and throat; I gave him sedating medicine so he could be more comfortable. Getting into the lung was not problematic, either. Everything was fine.

I did the biopsy, and as expected, there was some bleeding. Usually, this stops right away. In this patient, however, it did not. The blood kept coming, and coming, and coming, and coming. I tried to stop the bleeding, but I could not. I was prepared to stand there for as long as I needed to until the bleeding stopped, but the nurse told me the last thing I wanted to hear: “Doc, sats are 74.”

That means that the oxygen level is dangerously low. Another colleague was with me during the procedure, and he suggested I pull the scope out and place him on a high amount of oxygen. I agreed and did just that; the problem was the oxygen level still stayed low. Thus, I had to intubate the patient, which means place a breathing tube down his windpipe to help him breathe and stabilize the airway.

There was blood everywhere. I tried to suction out as much as I could, but the blood kept coming. Thank God, it slowed down to the point where I could see his vocal cords, and I placed the tube into his windpipe.

We confirmed the location of the tube and were breathing for him, but I could not relax. I had since called for help, and almost immediately, a barrage of people showed up. Suddenly, the patient lost his pulse and blood pressure. CPR was immediately instituted, and we administered emergency medicines in his IV. I suctioned out as much blood as I could from his airway. Thank God, his pulse and blood pressure returned. We rushed him back to the coronary care unit. His blood pressure was dangerously low, despite multiple medications that increase blood pressure.

Things did not look good, and I was a complete wreck. I could barely concentrate during my Friday prayer sermon, and I remember looking out the window and wondering if I will have a future in Medicine. For sure, this was an unexpected occurrence, and it occasionally happens. Still, no physician likes to have a complication occur, including me.

I went back to his room repeatedly to check on him. He was stable, but still very sick. The Senior Resident in the CCU – clearly annoyed that she now had to deal with this very sick patient –  asked me:  “Who did the procedure?”

“I did,” was my flat answer. She looked at me and said simply “Oh.”

I was working in the hospital the next morning, and his room was my first stop. I half expected the room to be empty…thinking that the patient had died. Unbeknownst to me, however,  the patient pulled out his breathing tube unexpectedly the night before , and – surprisingly – did just fine.

By the next morning, he was a little confused, but was alert and responsive. He seemed to recognize me, which made me feel great. I asked him how he was feeling, and he said, “Shi**y.” I nearly jumped for joy! He continued to improve, and he returned to his “baseline” state, the state he was in prior to the bronchoscopy.

Thank God!

It would be very tempting…and I must admit that it sort of crossed my mind…that this bad thing happened because it was a Friday the 13th. But, I neither believed that then nor do I believe that now. My patient suffered a complication, and it just happened to be Friday the 13th. In fact, he got better on his own…on Friday the 13th.

I will never forget that fateful Friday the 13th, and despite the terrible events of that morning, it actually turned out to be a blessed day, even if a black cat had crossed my path as I crashed into a mirror and broke it on my way to the procedure.

Happy Friday!

In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Most Merciful Beloved Lord

Tomorrow marks the 12th anniversary of the horrific attacks on our country in New York and Washington, D.C. I will never forget that day, and it has been burned into my memory as if it had occurred yesterday. All across our country, we shall all stop to remember the victims of that terrible act of barbarism; remember the heroes who sacrificed their own lives to save others; remember the families who have had to suffer through living life without a father, or mother, or brother, or sister, or son, or daughter.

May our Beloved be with them all.

Indeed, we will never forget what happened on that fateful day. Yet, we must also never lose hope for the future. As our country sits on the brink of another war in the Middle East, we must always strive to be the best nation we can possibly be going forward. We must never lose hope that the voices of hatred and division in our country – who are loud and obnoxious – will always be drowned out by the voices of love and unity.

Our country’s greatness always shines supreme in the end: whether it is the Americans who formed human chains around mosques after 9/11 or how communities come together after tragedies – natural and otherwise – this greatness is in her people, and we must always let this greatness shine forth for all to see.

Never forget the past, but never lose hope that our future will be better for all.




In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful

After voraciously taking in Reza Aslan’s book, Zealot, about the life and times of Jesus Christ, I decided to read his bestselling book about Islam, No god but God. Towards the end of his excellent, I must say, book Aslan wrote:

Just as the Christian Reformation opened the door to multiple, often conflicting, and sometimes baffling interpretations of Christianity, so has the Islamic Reformation created a number of wildly divergent and competing ideologies of Islam. What musts be recognized, however, is that the peaceful, tolerant, and forward-leaning Islam of an Amr Khaled and the violent, intolerant, and backward-looking Islam of an Osama bin Laden are two competing and contradictory sides of the same reformation phenomenon, because both are founded upon the argument that the power to speak for Islam no longer belongs solely to the Ulama [religious scholars]. For better or worse, that power now belongs to every single Muslim in the world.

Further writing about the role of the Internet in this reformation of Islam, he wrote that the Internet

has become a bastion for violent interpretations of Islam, and for Jihadism in particular, allowing militant preachers and propagandists to bypass the authority of the Ulama and communicate their anti-institutional message directly to Muslims across the world. And thanks to the relative anonymity of the Internet, it is often difficult to differentiate between the Ulama and the Jihadist, between the respected scholar and the dangerous dilettante.

As an admirer of Dr. Aslan’s excellent work, I must yet disagree with him on this last statement.

Indeed, there are competing narratives about what the essence of Islam is: a violent, intolerant, and backwards militant cult (upon which both Jihadist and Islamophobe oddly agree) or a peaceful, tolerant, progressive faith that inspires personal and societal greatness. Of course, I – and the overwhelming majority of Muslims like me – believe the latter. Yet, who is correct? How do we know the charlatan from the one who is telling the truth?

Jesus Christ gave the answer thousands of years ago:

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:15-21)

So did the Qur’an:

Art thou not aware how God sets forth the parable of a good word? [It is] like a good tree, firmly rooted, [reaching out] with its branches towards the sky, yielding its fruit at all times by its Lord’s leave. And [thus it is that] God propounds parables unto humanity, so that they may bethink themselves [of the truth]. And the parable of a corrupt word is that of a corrupt tree, torn up [from its roots] onto the face of the earth, wholly unable to endure. (14:24-26)

I can tell right away the barbarian from the civilized: by the fruits of his actions and words. If the results of the “Islam” of an Osama bin Laden and those of his ilk is death, destruction, despair, murder, mayhem, and violence – as it is – then, I know that this is a “false prophet” bearing a “corrupt word” yielding a “corrupt tree.” If someone’s Islam calls for the horrific violence of the Boston Marathon bombings, then I know it is false. If a preacher on a pulpit says God commands the murder of innocent people, then I know that this preacher is a “ravening wolf” come in “sheep’s clothing.”

Yet, if I see doctors, lawyers, carpenters, shopkeepers – among so many others – who do so much good in this world because they claim Islam commands them thus, then I know that this is the truth about Islam. When I behold ordinary American Muslims, citing their Islamic devotion, cooperating  with law enforcement to foil dozens of terrorist plots, then I know that this Islam is true.

When I witness Muslims in Egypt standing to forming human chains and praying in front of Churches so they would not be attacked by hoodlums and barbarians, then I know that this Islam is the true one.

In fact, some of those people attacking Churches claim that they do so because Islam says they must. But, I know they are liars because of the fruits of their actions:  taking life, destroying what is  sacred, and wreaking more mayhem and destruction. Whereas the former are protecting life, protecting their fellow citizens, being good neighbors, protecting the sacred, and seeking to calm a very violent situation.

So, yes, there is a battle of the narratives over what the true nature of Islam is. But it is easy to see who are the “false prophets” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing” because the end result of their claim is more evil and destruction. Thus, they cannot be claiming the truth.

In the Name of God, the Infinitely Mericful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

At the end of Ramadan, I make this prayer unto the Lord:

Beautiful, Beloved Lord our God on High!
Hallowed be Thy Name in the Heavens and the Earth!
Good is all that You do each and every second in our lives.
Limitless are You in Thy Glory, Beautiful Lord on High!

You have blessed us with another month of Ramadan, O Lord
You have given us the chance to purify ourselves and our souls
Beautiful Lord, Beautiful God, we have tried our best to live up to You!
Yet, sadly, Lord we can never do Your Grace its due justice.

And so, our Beautiful Lord our God, please bless us

Bless us as Your month of Grace comes to a close
Bless us as we eat and drink while yet the sun shines
Bless us as our normal daily routines come roaring back to life
Bless us as we try to learn the lessons of the fast we just completed.

Beautiful Lord, Beautiful God on High!

Thank You for all Your Beauty and Your Grace!
Thank You for all the times we happily broke our fasts with food and drink!
Thank You for all the plenty with which You have blessed us!
Thank You for all the bounty You have provided for us to give in charity!

Lord our God, let us be a force for good in this world!
Let us shake off the covetousness of our souls so that we can help those in need!
Let us learn the lessons of this past Ramadan so that we are better because of it!
Lord our God, do not let the only thing with which we come back from Ramadan be hunger and thirst.

And most important of all, our Beautiful, Beloved Lord our God: Forgive us.
Forgive us when we frowned at having to fast until late in the night
Forgive us when we cringed at the heat of the sun and shuddered at not being able to drink
Forgive us when we sighed and gasped out of weakness throughout those long days of summer
Forgive us for not praying and reciting and magnifying Your Name more than what we did this year.

It is only because of You that we have any good in our lives.
It is only because of You that we can be a force for good in this world.
It is only because of You that we can even fast in the first instance.

And so, Beautiful Lord our God, thank you.
And please bless each and every one of us perpetually until that glorious Day when we will meet You once again.

In Your Most Holy Name, O Lord. Amen.

In the Name of God, the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Lord

One of the major focuses of Ramadan – aside from fasting and the Qur’an – is prayer. Every night, Muslims are encouraged to stand and perform night vigil prayers for extra devotion to God. This is in addition to the five daily ritual prayers, which continue each day, throughout the year. It is a very nice aspect to Ramadan, and it is a ritual practice I wish I can continue after Ramadan is over. Yet, whether the prayer is one of the obligatory or devotional ones, one thing about the ritual prayer that is so amazing is its ability to bring people together.

Recently, my brother-in-law and I engaged in a profound – and frequently heated – discussion at a family gathering. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I have a penchant for such…”passionate” debates. No surprise, the discussion was about the two “nuclear” topics: religion and politics. Yet, after it was all over, he and I both stood next to each other as we prayed the sunset ritual prayer together.

At that moment, we stood –  shoulder-to-shoulder as brothers –  in the Divine Presence with as much humility as we can muster. Gone was the heated exchange and (as for my part) animosity that we may have had during our argument. During that sacred time, we stood and bowed and praised God together, in perfect harmony.

That is one of the greatest aspects of the ritual prayer, especially when it is done in congregation. Whatever our differences outside of the ritual prayer, when we pray together, we all stand as one – brothers and sisters together – before our Creator in His Beautiful Presence. In all likelihood, that is one of the benefits of congregational ritual prayer: to help bring the believers together and remind them – despite all that may make us different – we are still one community of brothers and sisters all living life in the worship of our Beloved Lord.

Our world would be a much better place if we would remember more often the ritual prayer and how – with all the diversity of the individuals – we as people can still come together and worship God in peace and harmony. Would that we would take that open reminder to the remaining aspects of our lives.